SharePoint Puzzle

What’s going on with SharePoint? Klint Finley, writing for ReadWriteWeb, reports what seem to be some counter-intuitive survey results:

A survey by AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management) found that although Microsoft SharePoint is being rapidly adopted by the enterprise, at least half of the enterprises polled that are implementing the platform don’t have business uses in mind and many lack specific policies regarding its use.

No business uses? No policies?  I thought this was a violation of the rules everyone learned in the IT 101 course on implementing new technology.  What’s worse is that the survey reports that 26% of the respondents claim that their “implementation is being driven by the the IT department with no input from information management professionals.” If this is true, then in a quarter of all cases, the IT professionals have acted contrary to the restrictions they impose on the rest of their organization.  But wait, there’s more:

Among respondents who have completed their SharePoint implementation, 58% report being able to do most of the things they needed with SharePoint. Others are using customizations and plugins for added functionality. ROI has been better or much better than expected according 28% of respondents, as expected for 40%, and only 9% consider it to be less than expected. The rest said it was too soon to say.

So, how do you explain this level of satisfaction given what appears to be patchy planning? Low expectations? A poor understanding of what the tool can do? Or have we all been so beaten down by disappointing implementations that we’re grateful for whatever crumbs we can get? But wait, there’s more:

Collaboration is the most popular use, followed by document management, file-sharing and intranet creation.

Now this makes no sense since I’ve heard lots of folks (including a few from Microsoft) say that the collaboration tools that come with SharePoint really aren’t all that great. Again, what’s going on? Have users discovered something that the experts missed in the collaboration tools? Or  are we so desperate for collaboration tools that we’ll take whatever we can get?

I’m no expert in SharePoint, but I am very interested in learning more.  If you can explain this puzzle, please do let me know.  I’m dying of curiosity!

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Update:  AIIM has provided a helpful summary of their survey results.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t answer all of my questions. (Hat tip to Curt Melzer at PinHawk Law Technology Daily Digest.)

[Photo Credit: Horia Varian]

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5 thoughts on “SharePoint Puzzle

  • July 7, 2010 at 4:58 pm
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    Sharepoint 2010 is like the elephant that the three blind men were trying to describe. It has so many faces that it is hard to grasp what it can do, and in the end perhaps its strength is that it offers so many ways to do things which should be simple, but in too many enterprises are impossible. Sharepoint 2010's genius is that in making these information sharing capabilities complex and difficult to use beyond simple document sharing, they have actually freed the enterprise from the stifling hold of IT departments who make things impossible.

    Now any team can have a wiki, or share a spreadsheet without emailing copies around and losing track of which version is the latest. In fact, by having that spreadsheet (which is really a database in disguise) online, now other folks can use a bit of wizardry (jquery, client object model) to build tools around it and bypass the whole budget process of getting a database server for their tool ideas.

  • July 7, 2010 at 7:46 pm
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    I think Sharepoint does one thing very good: integrate with the primary workplace of the knowledge worker, which is Outlook and Office. Most collaboration and document management tools did this a bit or had no integration at all. What I see is Sharepoint mostly being used as a file management system with versioning. Some also use the lists (tasks etc). I don't see many people using the blog and wiki features, because (in 2007) they are not powerful enough. I'm curious if 2010 will change usage patterns or that SP was just a station on our way to true social networking platforms (which SP 2007 isn't IMHO).

  • July 8, 2010 at 1:20 pm
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    Michael, I'm very enthusiastic about the empowerment you describe, but wouldn't it be better achieved by 'small pieces, loosely joined'?

    In an alternative to the typical Microsoft approach, you could engineer, provide and document individual components which do something well, like store row data and give it back to you, take in events as web posts and serve them back out as feeds, search feeds and render them, and so on.

    I speculate that this approach could help the average employee get at the real value, which is about the content, and managing communications with each other.

    It would also save the enterprise paying for a million unused features of which the database underneath the system, the querying and web formatting is the actual value.

    Since most employees never get access to a database (excuse the pun) or have a web server served up, the sleight of hand involved isn't obvious to most, but surely the CIO should be aware this is what's going on.

  • August 24, 2010 at 10:41 am
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    “If this is true, then in a quarter of all cases, the IT professionals have acted contrary to the restrictions they impose on the rest of their organization.”

  • August 24, 2010 at 10:45 am
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    “If this is true, then in a quarter of all cases, the IT professionals have acted contrary to the restrictions they impose on the rest of their organization.”

    My response to that is: so what else is new. Basically SP is considered as a freebie by most IT departments (with Windows server). It can end up being very expensive but to begin with it appears free.

    “Or are we so desperate for collaboration tools that we’ll take whatever we can get?”

    The answer (outside the E2.0/KM cognescenti) is: yes.

    That said, as driessen notes, what SP does excel at is integration with other MS tools. And it's often not a bad place to start…

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